[Photo: Jeremy Wonnacott]
A collaboration between the Space Consultative Committee based at the Ministry for Research, Innovation and the Co-ordination of post COVID-19 Strategy and the University of Malta’s Institute of Space Sciences and Astronomy, will see the first-ever, space-faring object being launched from the Maltese Islands with the aim of researching the Maltese and Mediterranean stratosphere.
The Memorandum of Understanding signed today will also see the creation of an industry start-up competition encouraging the proposal of space-themed ideas.
The Minister for Research, Innovation and the Co-ordination of the post-COVID-19 Strategy Owen Bonnici, said: “This agreement is the first step in the development of more human capital in the space sector, and comes with the ultimate aim of informing the public about space-related activities that have been happening in our country over the past years, and introducing further opportunities for industrial and educational institutions to participate in.”
To achieve these aims, the Ministry will be investing €75,000 into two main activities, which will kick off in the next few months.
First, the flagship project will see the launching of a space balloon called STRATOS-1, which is the first space-faring object to be launched from Malta.
This will rise over 30km into space and on its way up will take measurements of the atmosphere above the islands. It will, thanks to measuring devices attached to it, return with never-before-seen aerial and space photos of the Maltese Islands, which will enable scientists to carry out studies of the Maltese and Mediterranean stratosphere.
Second, a Commercialisation of Space Research Competition will be finalised by October 2021, whereby start-ups will be encouraged to propose ideas on a space-related theme and could use these funds to pitch their idea to the European Space Agency.
ISSA founder, Prof. Kristian Zarb Adami, said this was an exciting and historic time for Malta and the fruit of a strong collaboration with the Space Consultative Committee.
“ISSA has been active in the field of space research for almost a decade, designing and building instruments for international space experiments. We have worked tirelessly to inspire the younger and older generations alike to look toward the heavens.
“Finally, thanks to the hard work of the Consultative team, Malta will join just a handful of other countries of having launched something into space and we auger that this collaboration between the university and the Ministry is just the first step to a long and fruitful work on space,” Prof. Zarb Adami added.
After getting a preview of the two initiatives, Dr Bonnici said he hoped these projects would serve as an inspiration to young students who were interested in science.
In a show of the Ministry’s long-term commitment to the space sector, it is also sponsoring a PhD to analyse the information gathered and to produce the first scientifically-important data from the stratosphere, as well the carrying out several outreach activities, to be held in collaboration with Esplora.
University of Malta Rector, Prof. Alfred J. Vella, said the University was delighted to once again be working hand in hand with this Ministry on a project, which will help the islands’ scientists gain more knowledge on how space impacted our daily lives.
“Just as those working on these initiatives are trying to stretch the boundaries of what we know, and getting a broader perspective on how our planet fits in within a bigger system, so should these opportunities be seen as incentives for our students and researchers to explore the big picture of how their abilities will, if directed through the right channels, lead to the unfolding of the unknown,” he said.